Voice of the Warrior: Sharing Voices

Voice of the Warrior covers the winter and spring phases of 2018 Warrior Chorus in 2018, where four previous Warrior Chorus Fellows will take new groups through three phases: readings and education of Greek theater, a new interpretation which these Fellows compose, and then performance.

This episode covers the first week of Phase III, where the four groups share the Veteran-written interpretations of the ancient Greek works through staged readings…

It’s finally show time. Two teams take the black box stage each night so it’s finally time to put all of the lessons together. Use the stage, use your voice, rely on your teammates, have confidence and remember to be real: each participant is enough.

There’s a little bit of stage nerves ahead of the performance on the part of not just those on stage but the writers. It’s not an easy night, having your work on display for a packed house including your fellow program participants. The feeling in the audience is one of support, a calming counterbalance to the nervous anticipation, as they begin to file in shortly before the notional curtain rises.

There is first a quick introduction from Desiree, clearly proud of her 42 Fellows made up of Veterans and Family Members. She is excited to see these productions for the first time in full, too, and displays confidence they will each be unique and important. The purpose of the Warrior Chorus – a way to assist Veterans and Families in learning to understand, adapt, and present Greek theater with a focus on war and reintegration – is discussed with passion, as is the explanation that the writers and groups were encouraged to work with theater mentors and learn from the experience. The focus is clear: these are not career actors or writers, these are individuals connected to the Veteran Community with a passion for learning theater and applying tools and techniques to the real world.

And with that, the presentations of full-length works begin. The support on stage for each other is reminiscent of how a platoon starts to build in the service. Actors, which now describes everyone in the cast, have their parts within the whole and they are ready to back each other up. A line missed? No worries, someone has your back. Forgot where you were supposed to stand? We will work around it together. It feels natural, because they have by now built into functional teams ready to support one another in the mission.

Each play is vastly different in tone, setting, and topic, and fits the dynamic of each group perfectly. The Veteran writers clearly took personalities, abilities, and experiences into account during the composition, and most of the plays have considerable group effort in scripting and editing. But far from being a hodge-podge of works based on Greek plays (some more loosely than others), the variety keeps the audience involved and even draws attendees back for both nights. This audience is intent and intense. They remain rapt during the performances not out of the politeness of being in attendance at a reading of a new script, but without scenery and costumes the cast and new writing has defined new perceptions.

The talk-back – a key part of the Aquila Warrior Chorus mission in relating the works to the Veteran and Family experience – is a great insight into the fellowship and the process. The audience questions are mostly posed from the other groups, even though they are a minority in the nearly standing room house, as they ask how ideas came about or what the experience was like in the other groups. The casts are welcomed into answering some of the questions, drawn in from the primary writers/directors and making the feeling of team more powerful in “This was not just my work, but all of ours.” And through it all the audience remains deeply involved, cheering on not only the process but the stories of the Veterans and Families that inspired the writing.

“I would love more time,” says Jenny during her talk-back and with sentiments echoed in comments from fellow writers and cast members. “We don’t want the community to disband.” What are the next steps is on the mind of much of the audience, how to continue forward this platoon of actors and writers. How to reinforce and continue to develop the lessons learned, and keep building the community. There is one reading still to go, but the minds of the Fellows and the audience is clearly on the future well beyond.

The final reading (excerpts of all four plays) and ceremony for Warrior Chorus is on 11 April 2018 at the Federal Hall Rotunda at 7pm, and is open and welcome to the public. Follow Aquila on FacebookTwitter, and this blog for updates. Help Warrior Chorus develop: if you attended a reading, please review your experience here. If you are a NYC Warrior Chorus fellow past or present, share your experience with classes to come here.